WTF Fun Fact 13057 – The Pope & Doc Martens

Did you know Pope John Paul II wore Doc Martens boots? Not only that, but he ordered dozens of pairs of the boots in white for himself and his staff!

The Pope gets stylish with Doc Martens

In a now-archived story from 1996 (cited below), the Associated Press (AP) reported that Doc Martens’ military-style kickers had a new fan – Pope JP2.

They noted that “The Pontiff has ordered 100 pairs of the cushion-soled boots for his Vatican staff, including a pair of white brogues in his own size.”

In fact, he wasn’t the only religious leader to own a pair, the AP reported that the Dalai Lama owned a pair as well.

The boots, originally sold as solid and practical work boots, have long been seen on style icons. But with the Pope’s clothing so formal, we never really would have seen that coming. And most of the time, they would have been hidden by his robes.

Still, sometimes you just need solid footwear to get the job done, no matter what that job is.

Vatican fashion

If you look back at photos of Pope John Paul II, you’ll often see him in some practical-yet-colorful blue slip-on (blue suede shoes, if you will). Yet, because part of the Vatican’s Doc Martens order included a special set in the pope’s size (size 9), it seemed clear that he was reserving the right to stomp around in them occasionally as well.

“The holy order includes a pair of the classic eight-eyelet bovver boots (quite frequently worn by skinheads) and three pairs of brogues in black, blue and white,” noted the AP.

The AP reported that “Among the first to try out the new Doc Martens boots in the Vatican will be the Pope’s Swiss guards.” That we’re less surprised about – because have you seen those uniforms? The boots would be the most practical aspect.

The original Doc Martens were manufactured in Northampton, England, though they were sold worldwide. If you’re a Gen X-er, you may remember lacing up a pair while popping in Nirvana’s “Nevermind” CD (or cassette!). They were big with the grunge crowd.

The receipts

This story wasn’t something assumed based on rumor alone. Doc Marten’s spokesperson Louise Hurren told the AP:

“Well the order was placed by the Vatican and they have asked us to supply a number of styles including the most famous eight eyelet boot in black, white and navy leather and also some three eyelet shoes”.

Stylish!  WTF fun facts


WTF Fun Fact 12451 – The Bishop of the Moon

Archbishop William D. Borders was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, established in 1968. It covered 13 counties and nearly 10,000 square miles of central Florida. And possibly the moon.

Now, the Catholic Church has made no claim at all to the moon, but Borders’ territory happened to include Brevard, Florida, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is where the U.S. launches its space missions.

At the time of the moon landing in July of 1969, many religious leaders praised the space program, seeing it as proof that God’s creation was neverending.

But for Borders, the moon landing was a little more personal. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (aka The Pio-Benedictine Code), which was in effect until 1983, any newly discovered territory was to be placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated.

In other words, since the Apollo 11 mission launched from Cape Canaveral and that was in Borders’ territory, it was technically under his jurisdiction. A couple of other bishops joked that they might have dibs, but it was all in good fun.

In fact, to keep the joke going, Bishop Borders mentioned this to Pope Paul VI on a visit to the Vatican in late 1969. The pope had watched the moon landing with great interest (the Vatican has one of the best observatories in the world), but we’re not quite sure what he thought of the claim.

The story of their meeting comes to us via Renae Bennett, Orlando’s diocesan archivist, who wrote:

During his visit, Bishop Borders mentioned to the pope that he was the ‘bishop of the moon.’ Responding to the pontiff’s perplexed reaction, Bishop Borders explained that according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (in effect at that time), any newly discovered territory was placed under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the expedition that discovered that territory originated. Since Cape Canaveral, launching site for the Apollo moon missions, was in Brevard County and part of the Diocese of Orlando, then in addition to being bishop of 13 counties, he was also bishop of the moon,” Bennett wrote. That would add more than 14.6 million square miles to the Diocese of Orlando, making that diocese the largest in the known universe.”

Of course, it all means very little, but that’s what makes it a fun fact.

Another fun fact: This would all make the current Bishop of Orlando, John G. Noonan, not only bishop of the moon but also of the International Space Station, which launched from Kennedy Space Center. – WTF fun facts

Source: “A Catholic bishop of the moon?” — The Catholic Weekly